Editing Modernism in Canada


October 26, 2010

Reflections on EMiC CEP 2010

As I sit down this morning to reflect on the Editorial Problems Conference that wrapped up this weekend at U of T, I find it difficult to generalize about the diversity, engagement and talent of all the various speakers who talked about their various editorial projects, identified problems, and, most importantly, offered some fascinating theoretical and practical solutions to the issues of editing a period in Canadian literature to both regenerate public interest and recover texts that may have been out of print for decades.

While this list is by no means comprehensive, I thought I might take a few minutes to distinguish a few things I learned and got thinking about as a result of this conference.  I’d love to see what other people were thinking about, and perhaps see this list become collaborative to reflect the very rich conversations, both on and off stage, that accompanied our time together.

1.  We have come a long way. Beth Popham, who self proclaims her project as involving basic “dinosaur” technology and frames, was able to suggest how fast things have moved since she and Zailig Pollock independently tackled the works of Behind the Log and the poetry and letters of E.J. Pratt.  Her important distinction between the different models of socialization (letters to illuminate poetry vs poetry to illuminate letters) offered a dualistic method of applying McKenzie’s theories about Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts to a digital “complete works” project.

2.  We still have a long way to go.  Meagan “Steve Jobs” Timney illustration of some of the hopeful features of the new IMT 2.0 taught us about the difficulty of creating new technology, and got us excited about drawing unique shapes around parts of the text to mark them up and edit them in new ways.  The role of the image in creating a more transparent editorial intervention into a text combines the power of digitization with a new ability to annotate, moving out of the realm preservation and toward a new kind of scholarly edition.

3.  We need to theorize the scholarly edition to better fit our own editorial projects.  Concepts such as Dean Irvine’s question about scholarly unfinishedness, Hannah McGregor’s discussion of multiple authorship and editorship, Kailin Wright’s inclusion of both con-text and copy-text and Bart Vautour’s event-based editing are just a few of the ways in which we were offered an opportunity to re-imagine the methodologies and theoretical frameworks that are the starting point of our editorial approach.

4.  We need to continue to build on a collaborative model of editing, both across generations and across projects.  The mentorship model which was so prevalent in the Sheila Watson and Wilfred Watson roundtable, cropped up across various projects, including in the emerging scholars roundtable, and the two technologies and collaboration panels.  When graduate students spoke of their RA work on EMiC projects, the goal was not simply to facilitate the senior scholar’s own editorial goals, but also to provide the tools to encourage independent work by the junior editor.  For massive projects that are similar in scope, such as the P.K. Page and Watson projects which are in similar early stages, it became clear that sharing resources and ideas across projects would allow for innovation and a greater sense of efficiency for both works.  Workflows and guidelines currently in development by Matt Huculak in collaboration with Meg Timney in the near future will allow for common standards across all EMiC affiliated projects.  The EMiC Commons and MiCA Archive (Coming Soon!) will be excellent forums for sharing research between scholars both within and across projects.

5.  We need to think about the pedagogical impacts of our editorial work in the classroom.  Vanessa Lent suggested expanding our mentorship model into the classroom through experiential learning and scholarly editing practices.  Peter Webb talked about the fear of “fromming” in selected teaching texts, while also emphasizing the value of short print editions to encourage the appearance of our work on University Syllabi and in the hands of general readers.

6.  We need to think both big and small. For each large recovery project, for Miriam Waddington, Gabrielle Roy, Martha Ostenso and Wilfred Watson, there is also an individual volume for Eli Mandel, Ernest Buckler and Elizabeth Smart.  These two recovery models will impact scholarship in different ways, and are particularly affected by institutional support and independent research funding.

7.  We need to think in print and online.  Many projects combine both print editions and digital apparatus, or distinct print and digital editions.  We need to explore in more detail the idea of a hybrid text, as well as determine what the benefits are to using this model to describe these works versus a model in which the two components are separate and distinct.

8.  We need to keep thinking about these things together and keep the conversation going.  Future conferences, the EMiC blog, workshops, conference proceedings, special issues, classroom teaching, TA meetings, RA meetings, department meetings, Skype, twitter, DHSI, TEMiC and ACCUTE are just a small number of the forums in which we can continue to broach these multiple issues and find common and individual solutions.

I want to end this post by thanking, once again, all of the various people who helped bring this conference to life.  Thanks to co-convenors Dean Irvine and Colin Hill, University of Toronto and the Conference on Editorial Problems for giving us a forum, Kailin Wright and Brandon McFarlane for accommodations and technology, Vanessa Lent for her incredible administration.  To all the others, acknowledged and not in the program for the conference, as well as all the participants and presenters, thank you!

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